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Fourth-down miss, Chase Edmonds injury set Cardinals back

NEW ORLEANS -- One play and one decision changed the direction of the Arizona Cardinals' 31-9 blowout loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

The Cardinals were trailing 10-6 with 7:40 left in the third quarter. Their offense had been stale and ineffective, but the defense had, for the most part, kept the Saints and quarterback Drew Brees -- in his first game back from thumb surgery -- in check. On third-and-1 from the Cardinals' 30, Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury called a bootleg pass to wide receiver Christian Kirk. Kyler Murray was under center and rolled to his right but had to throw the pass away.

Instead of punting, Kingsbury decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 in his own territory, but running back Chase Edmonds was stonewalled and the Cardinals turned the ball over on downs.

Four plays later, the Saints scored to go up 17-6, kick-starting their offense on the way to a blowout win.

Hindsight is 20-20, but had the Cardinals ran the ball on third down and not converted the first down, their fourth-down run could've been a bit easier. Or if Kingsbury had called for a punt instead of trying to go for it, then the Cardinals wouldn't have had to defend a short field against Brees & Co.

Either way, that play and decision changed the trajectory of the game and led to an end of the Cardinals' three-game winning streak.

Biggest injury: Edmonds left the game with a hamstring injury with 4:29 left in the third quarter and did not return. He was listed as questionable. But the Cardinals were already down running back David Johnson, who missed Sunday's game and is expected to miss Thursday's game against the 49ers, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. If both Edmonds and Johnson miss the game, the Cardinals will be down to Zach Zenner and Alfred Morris, if they don't sign anyone else before the game.

Bold prediction for next week: If Edmonds can't play Thursday night against the 49ers and the Cardinals can't sign anyone else before then, they’ll go with a committee of Zenner and Morris to just get through the week, then let both Edmonds and Johnson recover over the long weekend.

QB breakdown: Murray had a tough day against the Saints' top-10 defense. He was 19-for-33 passing for 220 yards but didn't throw a touchdown and ran for 13 yards on two carries. He was sacked four times before getting pulled late in the fourth quarter. Murray struggled to find a rhythm and was forced to throw the ball away at least four times.

Troubling trend: The Cardinals' offense reverted to their early-season ways by not scoring touchdowns in the red zone Sunday, going 0-for-2. Entering Sunday, the Cardinals scored a touchdown on 35 percent of their drives that reached the red zone, the second-worst rate in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That rate didn't improve Sunday.